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Which parks should every enthusiast visit?


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If you were going to advise a new enthusiast on what parks they should hit up first, which ones would you recommend and why?

Let's assume travel expenses aren't an issue. Feel free to consider price of admission, food prices, merchandise prices, etc. in your recommendations, if you feel "bang for your buck" is an important factor.

You can get as specific as you'd like. Heck, feel free to write out a whole itinerary if you want! :)

I'll start. Admittedly, I'm leaning more towards the history side of things. In no particular order:

  1. Knoebels. It's the best operating glimpse into the history of amusement parks, in my opinion. It's also just incredibly fun and charming. From trying to get the brass ring on the carousel to the existence of Flying Turns to the Traver bumper cars, it's like getting a glimpse into the original heyday of the amusement park world before the 1930's. Also, everyone should ride Phoenix in 1-3 before they die.
  2. Disneyland. It's beautiful, and it revolutionized how amusement and theme parks were designed. From Main Street to Haunted Mansion to Pirates of the Caribbean to it's a small world, despite being 50+ years old, it still feels like an earnest attempt at something new and amazing, and you can't help but love it for that. No, Magic Kingdom in Florida is NOT the same thing. Disneyland, in my opinion, is THE quintessential theme park.
  3. Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Kings Island, or Six Flags over Texas. All three are charming and top-tier examples of how the Disneyland idea was propagated to seasonal parks, and each of them has managed to keep (or regain) a lot of their original charm despite several changes in management over the years. Each also has stand-out rides that every enthusiast should try.
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Well, if you are going for coasters, then Cedar Point is an obvious choice.

My vote for best well rounded park with shows, rides and just a wonderful atmosphere, it would be Dollywood.  That is the one park besides Kings Island where I have had a season pass before.  I have probably visited Dollywood more than I have visited Cedar Point at this point.  Don`t get me wrong, I love coasters, but Dollywood is just something special.

Disney World is a must to,  Having visited both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, if someone has visited neither, I would recommend going to WDW, as there is a lot more to do and experience there.  Although everyone should visit Disneyland at some point to, so they can "walk where Walt walked."

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I agree with you about WDW. Disneyland is fun too and agree with TombRaider that it is the quintessential theme park and better than Magic Kingdom, but WDW has so much more to offer overall. Disneyland is a few day trip, Disney World you can go to for a week and still not get to everything you want. 

Dollywood I would put on there as well. The park is gorgeous with a great selection of food, shows, and rides. Especailly at Christmastime it is gorgeous. I'd recommend it for a great Christmas trip.

Cedar Point is a must for enthusiasts as well for the coaster collection. You cant beat it anywhere else. Kings Island is a great park all around but Cedar Point still beats them for coasters.

Busch Gardens is another. I've only been to Florida but Williamsburg looks fantastic. From pictures I'm apt to say it might be the nicer one and would recommend it over Tampa but either would be good. Shows a great use of theming outside of a major destination park like Universal and Disney.

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I'm adding Hersheypark.  Very much a traditional amusement park, but it blends its past being apart of the initial history of parks with modern touches and ride collection.  It doesn't commit to having a kids section, but rather sprinkles a mix of larger and smaller rides throughout.  The Hershey influence (aka, the candy stuffs) isn't overdone but adds its own charm.  Its a very clean and beautiful park, the food is excellent.  They keep all their wooden coasters in tip top shape (Comet runs like its new). 

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Personally, there's a few out there that I think every enthusiast should go to:

1. Cedar Point, America's True Roller Coast: Just in general, this park is a living, breathing, coaster museum with a ton of historic feats and attractions being housed there. Plus, it has some of the best coasters in the nation, you simply can't beat a line up with Steel Vengeance, Millennium Force, and Maverick. Plus, it has arguably one of the best beaches, primarily because of the views of the coasters behind you. 

2. Knoebels/Lakemont Park: I'm going to lump both of these parks together due to the proximity and just similar vibes therein. Knoebels has Phoenix and Twister, which honestly speaking, Twister should get a lot more love than what it receives because it is extremely close to Phoenix IMO. Lakemont Park, you have the oldest coaster in the nation, that park is a legacy and should be more frequented because it is a precious landmark that is honestly legendary anymore. 

3. Knott's Berry Farms: Alright, I'm going to be real, this was a hard choice between Carowinds, SFFT and Knott's, but Knott's held out. It is honestly the true success story from the west, what was once a farm for boysenberries, became a whole theme park that is honestly the best theme park out there. With spectacular theming, world class attractions, and food that can satisfy even the most critical thoosie, Knott's has a history that it hasn't let go of and chases with every addition they have. 

4. Kings Island: Kings Island, while in modern terms is behind alot of parks, for historical reasons still ranks high up there. KI has a legendary, albeit mostly rough, wooden coaster line up that is almost hallowed with the wooden coaster length record. This, coupled with three very popular B&M coasters and a diverse blend of classic Arrow's give the park an edge and definitely gives people an excuse to come up. Oh yeah, and the blue ice cream. 

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6 hours ago, BB1 said:

Personally, there's a few out there that I think every enthusiast should go to:

1. Cedar Point, America's True Roller Coast: Just in general, this park is a living, breathing, coaster museum with a ton of historic feats and attractions being housed there. Plus, it has some of the best coasters in the nation, you simply can't beat a line up with Steel Vengeance, Millennium Force, and Maverick. Plus, it has arguably one of the best beaches, primarily because of the views of the coasters behind you. 

2. Knoebels/Lakemont Park: I'm going to lump both of these parks together due to the proximity and just similar vibes therein. Knoebels has Phoenix and Twister, which honestly speaking, Twister should get a lot more love than what it receives because it is extremely close to Phoenix IMO. Lakemont Park, you have the oldest coaster in the nation, that park is a legacy and should be more frequented because it is a precious landmark that is honestly legendary anymore. 

3. Knott's Berry Farms: Alright, I'm going to be real, this was a hard choice between Carowinds, SFFT and Knott's, but Knott's held out. It is honestly the true success story from the west, what was once a farm for boysenberries, became a whole theme park that is honestly the best theme park out there. With spectacular theming, world class attractions, and food that can satisfy even the most critical thoosie, Knott's has a history that it hasn't let go of and chases with every addition they have. 

4. Kings Island: Kings Island, while in modern terms is behind alot of parks, for historical reasons still ranks high up there. KI has a legendary, albeit mostly rough, wooden coaster line up that is almost hallowed with the wooden coaster length record. This, coupled with three very popular B&M coasters and a diverse blend of classic Arrow's give the park an edge and definitely gives people an excuse to come up. Oh yeah, and the blue ice cream. 

You do realize King's Island only has two Arrows right? I would hardly call that "diverse". Meanwhile up north Cedar Point has 5. 

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So, there are a lot of parks I would love to get to/get back to (Six Flags New England, Carowinds/KD), but here is my list as of now:

  • Kings Island- Yes, it's my home park, but I feel like it is a great place for an enthusiast in the area to check out. We've got The Beast, Mystic Timbers, Diamondback, The Bat, Adventure Express, Flight of Fear and now Orion.
  • Cedar Point- This may seem like an obvious choice, but Cedar Point has certainly earned its mass appeal. It's got some amazing and unique coasters (Steel Vengeance, Millennium Force, Top Thrill Dragster, Maverick, Rougarou, Wicked Twister) as well as other rides/attractions to keep people entertained. When I go, I usually spend 2 days up there, just to make sure I get in everything I want to on that trip.
  • Hersheypark - This place might as well be the modern day Geagua Lake. They have a amazing and diverse collection of coasters (my favorites are Storm Runner, Lightning Racer, and Great Bear, but most of them are pretty good), a waterpark and even a mini-zoo. This place has it all! Also, if you are in the area, Dorney Park is only an hour's drive from the park!
  • Kentucky Kingdom- While a smaller park, it is unique as it has the region's only SLC as well as one of the closest RMCs. Also, The Runs are great as well!

Honorable Mentions include Dollywood and Holiday World.

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19 hours ago, TombRaiderFTW said:

No, Magic Kingdom in Florida is NOT the same thing.

You're right.  Magic Kingdom/WDW to me is a far better experience than Disneyland.  The only thing Disneyland has going for it is that it was there first.  With WDW they took everything good about Disneyland and recreated it, and then improved on it in ways that Disnelyand's geography wouldn't allow.  Disneyland is crammed into a small space in the middle of a city.  It's a pain to get to, and it always feels more crowded.  I honestly can't think of any reason to recommend it over WDW, unless you're already on the west coast.  Should every enthusiast visit at least once, to mark it off the list?  Sure.  But it's pretty far down the list.  All just my opinion, of course.  And full disclosure, if I never set foot on another Disney property again, I'd be just fine with that.

As to the question at hand, while I don't consider myself an enthusiast, at least to the extent most others here would be, I can't imagine anything topping Cedar Point on the list.  The quality, quantity and diversity of rides/coasters at CP make it a pretty clear cut #1 for me.  Now, if your definition of "enthusiast" assumes someone who has already been to CP, as I assume most enthusiasts have been at least once, the conversation can shift to other parks.  Of the places I've been, Dollywood and Hersheypark are the two that stand out.  I haven't been to enough small, local/regional parks to speak to those.  I enjoy reading about them on here, though, and hope to visit some of the more historic/iconic ones once the world settles down, and it's safe to travel again.

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16 hours ago, SnakePlissken said:

You do realize King's Island only has two Arrows right? I would hardly call that "diverse". Meanwhile up north Cedar Point has 5. 

I don't think you get the point of the wording here bud. I called CP a museum for a reason. I used diverse for KI as there are several parks with only sit down Arrows. I agree CP is more diversified, but the design of the post was to give credence to both park's historical ties while giving it in a different blend. 

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2 hours ago, BB1 said:

I don't think you get the point of the wording here bud. I called CP a museum for a reason. I used diverse for KI as there are several parks with only sit down Arrows. I agree CP is more diversified, but the design of the post was to give credence to both park's historical ties while giving it in a different blend. 

But you were not saying King's Island as a whole was more "Diversified" than Cedar Point. Your Diversified was describing the Arrows at King's Island. Of which my point still stands. My reply was regarding the Arrows at each park too. Not the parks as a whole.

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I agree with all of the ones that I have been to that have been mentioned so far.  Ones not mentioned so far that I'll add:

Carowinds: I love Fury and it is my steel number one.  While the park does have a lot of less desirable coasters, they have a pretty solid top four.  I would rank them 1. Fury, 2. Afterburn (probably my number 2 invert), 3. Copperhead Strike, and 4. Intimidator.  It is also a park that depending on where you are coming/going from that you could combine trips with (KD/BGW on one end, SFOG on another, or Dollywood).

Six Flags Great Adventure: My favorite of the Six Flags parks I have been to.  It really gave me a feeling of a cross between CP and KI.  While I would rank both of those parks over it, it has a great diverse lineup.  El Toro is a bucket list coaster for a lot of people.  Bizarro is my favorite floorless and Nitro may be my favorite of the non-Giga B&M hypers.  It can easily be combined with a Pennsylvania trip.  Just save up money for tolls. :lol:

Some general advice that I would have is try to hit smaller parks when they are somewhat on the way to your destination.  For example, a park like Waldameer gets overlooked but Ravine Flyer II is worth the stop.

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I agree with Cedar Point. If you are a coaster enthusiast, this is your Mecca. Not to mention that Cedar Point has a storied history from 1870 to now, is home to the first 200, 300, and 400 foot tall rollercoasters, as well as several firsts in the coaster community including Steel Vengeance as the first hyper hybrid.

Disneyland would be on the list for sure, due to this being Walt Disney's original baby and the historic attractions such as Matterhorn Bobsleds which is an ACE Coaster Landmark if I am not mistaken. If I recall, early on in Disneyland's history, Walt Disney had a stake in Arrow, which is historic in the amusement industry as well.

I want to add Walt Disney World to this as well, as it opened 16 years after the original Disneyland in Anaheim. If you haven't read the story on how Walt Disney acquired the land for the "Florida Project" it's pretty neat. Also, the infrastructure within the resort, particularly the Utilidors are interesting. What's interesting about all of this is how Walt used Disneyland in the 1950's as a learning opportunity for building in Florida. 

If you are a fan of the carnival games, I want to give a nod to Indiana Beach, for their Fascination game. Out of all of the parks I've been to over the years, this is the only park that I've been to that has this game, but supposedly Kings Island and Cedar Point had theirs back in the day.

Rivertown River above mentioned Six Flags Great Adventure (or if you've been here awhile, NJFTP as Terpy likes to call it) in their list and I would have to agree. They have the tallest coaster in the World here, one of my most favorite wood coasters, El Toro, and one of the first B&M hypercoasters in Nitro. Seriously, a front row ride on El Toro is something you have to experience due to the insane ejector air. Plus, it's the only Intamin pre-fab woodie in the U.S.

 

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